Top 5 Places to see British Wildlife

Top 5 Places to see British Wildlife

If you think of unforgettable wildlife holidays across the world, there are some experiences that spring instantly to mind, like a safari in Africa, or spotting orang -utans in Borneo or lemurs in Madagascar. However, we are fortunate in the UK to have a wealth of wildlife waiting to be discovered right on our doorstep.

Here are my top five places to see the best of our British wildlife.

Cardigan Bay, Wales

The beautiful Cardigan area stretches from Ceredigion in the north, to Pembrokeshire in the south, and offers a stunning coastline that has so much to offer wildlife enthusiasts. The varied terrain along the coast, wooded valleys and estuaries offer a haven for several species of bird, while the reef, sandbank and sea cave habitats house a variety of other wildlife, including sea lamprey, Atlantic grey seals  and porpoises. However there is one animal that Cardigan Bay is particularly famous for, and that’s its dolphins. In fact, the area is home to Britain’s biggest resident population of bottlenose dolphins, making it the best place in Europe to spot dolphins. You are likely to see them at any time of year, although the summer months are best.

New Quay is a hotspot for Dolphin watching in Wales. You can spot them from the harbour, or head out on a boat trip to get even closer (photo: Shutterstock)

Formby, Merseyside

Maybe it’s down to my childhood love of Beatrix Potter and Squirrel Nutkin, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the native red squirrel. Once the dominant species of squirrel in the UK, the numbers of this acrobatic, yet elusive rodent have dwindled since the introduction of the bigger grey squirrel from America in the Victorian era. Now banished to isolated pockets of Britain, there are only around 140,000 red squirrels left. The best time to spot a red squirrel is the autumn, as they are busy foraging in preparation for the winter ahead. While three quarters of the population can be found in Scotland, there are other places they can be found, including Anglesey, the Isle of Wight and Brownsea Island in Dorset. However, the stand out place for me is the Formby Red Squirrel Reserve, 15 miles north of Liverpool city centre. Here on the coast, the sand dunes, sea views and woodlands make a stunning back drop for a walk. The chance to see red squirrels is an added bonus!

Formby is home to the elusive red squirrel (photo: Shutterstock)

Blakeney Point, Norfolk

The colonies of Common and Grey Seals are growing every year in Norfolk and provide a fascinating year round spectacle. These amazing mammals can be spotted along the Norfolk coast at Hunstanton, Blakeney and Horsey. You can spot them with your pups in the winter months, while in the summer you can see the seals basking in the sun. Blakeney Point on the north coast provides the best vantage point to observe them, particularly in the winter when large numbers of grey seals congregate to give birth. (The smaller Common seals give birth in the summer). The colony at Blakeney Point is made up of Common and Grey seals and in recent Winters has been the biggest in England, with around 2500 pups. The friendly and inquisitive seals can be seen from one of the many boat trips in the area, or Blakeney Point is accessible by foot from Cley car park.

Seals basking at Blakeney Point (photo: Shutterstock)

The North Norfolk coast is also home to a plethora of birds, including terns,  Oyster Catchers, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Dunlin. During the winter months, huge numbers of ducks and geese arrive from October onwards.

Galloway Forest Park, Dumfries and Galloway

The red deer rut is one of nature’s most thrilling spectacles, as the male deer, known as stags or bucks, fight over females. The rut takes place every October and usually lasts around a week to ten days. There are many places to experience this exciting display of wildlife, including the New Forest and Lyme Park in Cheshire, but one of the best places is the Red Deer Range at Galloway Forest Park. Here you can watch the herd of red deer up close, while benefiting from the knowledge of the experienced rangers. Every year they host a range of events to mark the rut.

The rangers at Galloway Forest Park can advise on the best, and safest, place to see the annual red deer rut

The forest is also home to lots of other wildlife, including buzzards and birds of prey, while other moorland and woodland birds gather at the feeding station at the hide.

Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

It’s another entry for Wales on this list, and I make no apology for that! I couldn’t write about UK wildlife and not mention the instantly recognisable and charismatic Atlantic puffin. Skomer Island lies a mile off the Pembrokeshire coast and its 730 acres are home to an abundance of wildlife. It’s isolated position means that there are no ground predators, so together with neighbouring Skokholm Island it forms the largest breeding Puffin colony in Southern Britain. The birds live at sea for most of the year, returning to land in the Spring to mate and raise their chicks in burrows. The global population of puffins is in decline, in part due to the warming of the seas and over fishing, however 2017’s Puffin count on Skomer came up as the highest since modern records began with a whopping 25,227 individuals. Puffins can be spotted on Skomer from April through to August, with June to July the busiest months as the adult puffins fly back and forth with food for their chicks. The island is reached via boat, which runs Tuesday to Sunday three times a day. The trips are oversubscribed during peak months, so it’s best to arrive early in order to queue for tickets (they cannot be pre-booked)

Razorbills, Gullimots and Puffins resting on rocks Skomer Island, 

Skomer Island is also home to a variety of other wildlife, including the largest known colony of Manx Shearwater in the world. Razorbills, guillemots and short-eared owls thrive on the island, while other species, such as seals, porpoises and dolphins can be seen out to sea.

It’s been difficult narrowing down this list, after all the UK is home to some fascinating wildlife and so I couldn’t mention everything. There wasn’t room for sea otters, the resurgent beaver, the very rare Scottish wild cat or the golden eagle, but hopefully this has given you some inspiration for your next wildlife adventure.

What is your favourite place to see the best of our UK wildlife? Have you ever visited any of the places listed above?

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Comments

  • I remember going seal watching on boat trips from Blakeney Point as a kid! I was also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of puffins when I visited South Stack Cliffs on Anglesey last summer – that really was something special. I would love to see a red squirrel in the wild though, so maybe Formby ought to be next on my list!

    Reply
    • The Helpful Hiker The Helpful Hiker August 10, at 13:57

      The puffins are definitely top of my list-they are amazing creatures. I’ve only seen a red squirrel once, and that was in France, so would love to see some in the UK.

      Reply

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